It’s been another week, that’s for sure. The numbers of those testing positive for Covid-19 continue to increase—through the world, in our nation, and in our state.
According to the World Health Organization statistics this afternoon, there have been nearly 500,000 positive tests globally, and over 21,000 confirmed deaths.
Within the United States, over 80,000 have now tested positive, and over 1,100 have died.
Compared to other states, Kansas is still in the early days: only 168 positive tests and three deaths. (I’ll post below with the sources of these statistics).
That’s a lot to grieve…… a lot of pain…… a lot of uncertainty……
And that makes our connections—however we can manage them—that much more significant. As a species, we will make it through this best if we can make it through together….. if we can reach out by phone and skype and facetime and zoom and whatever and develop connections with one another that are deeper than the passing familiarity of any given Sunday.
We’re going to have to figure out how to do that on purpose, because it doesn’t look like anyone will be able to return to “business as usual” for some time…… and maybe we should hope to never return to “business as usual,” because somehow we figured out along the way how to be more fully ONE some other way.
Yesterday in the Christian calendar marked the holy day wherein we remember the Annunciation—when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and invites her into the story of redemption by uniquely birthing Immanuel—God with us, God enfleshed.
Gabriel leaves, having given Mary much to think about… including a lead to follow up on. Her older relative, Elizabeth, is to be a part of another miraculous birth, and this is a sign that Gabriel is true to his word.
Seeing for herself that all this is true, Mary catches the Spirit of inspiration and speaks the words we often title “The Magnificat,” found in Luke 1:46-55. I’d like to read those verses now.
“And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” (Luke 1:46–55 NRSV)
In these words, Mary speaks prophetically about the work that her child would be up to:
scattering the proud in the thoughts of their hearts
bringing down the powerful from their thrones
lifting up the lowly
filling the hungry with good things
sending the rich away empty
It seems an appropriate reminder for us today about where Jesus’ priorities lie, about what God finds valuable and important. As Jesus teaches and embodies, God cares deeply for those made vulnerable by the world. In fact, the stories of God in the Bible almost universally emphasize this.
In our current crisis, being responsible to, for, and about the vulnerable has been the consistent recommendation from the CDC, NIH, WHO, and other medical authorities. And yet, there are many in decision-making capacities who have expressed a readiness to sacrifice the vulnerable in an attempt to improve the economy.
The Christian response—as anticipated by Mary—follows a different kind of value.
the rich are sent away empty, while the hungry are filled
the haughty and powerful are brought down, and the lowly and powerless are raised up
Later on in the Gospel story, Jesus will say:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24 NRSV)
It feels like this virus has forced us to a decision point: Who will we serve?
It is clear which side Jesus is on.
But where is his Body? Where is the church?
And where is this supposedly “Christian” nation?
I am encouraged by the ways our community of faith is reaching out and taking care of one another. It makes my heart swell with joy when I call someone and find out that I’m the second or third call they’ve received that day.
But let us remember what James offers in chapter 3 of his letter. From the same mouth should not proceed blessing and cursing. We cannot proclaim the way of Jesus one moment, and then advocate against the priorities of God the next. We cannot follow Jesus and serve this world. We must choose.